busstopIn 1995, having been in a completely unrelated line of work (building maintenance), I had an invitation to temp for a local software company. Knowing this was a great opportunity for a potential career, I made it work around my current job schedule. I stretched myself for a brief time working two completely different jobs, 8 hours per day each. By the end, I was offered a full-time position in Technical Support for the software company, and my new career began.

I enjoyed representing, and championing, the customer’s experience to the company, and I let it be known that I intended to stay, and wanted to do everything I could to make this retail software customer experience better.

Within 8 months, I was offered a position as a Product Manager. I had people looking over my shoulder helping and guiding, for sure. But nonetheless, in 9 months’ time, I had gone from changing light bulbs and literally not knowing how to save a new file to a floppy disk, to being a Software Product Manager.

And indeed, I was dedicated to creating a better user experience for my customers.

In addition to various Marketing duties, and Sales support, and before I was aware of any discipline called “User Experience”, or method called “User-Centered Design”, I designed my new software applications using what I called “Customer Perspective Specifications” – “The customer wants to perform this task, so this is the interface they use, and this is how s/he uses the tools we provide to accomplish that task”.

I enjoyed this position at IMSI for five years before moving to Autodesk where I joined the Internet Marketing Team as an Executive Producer. This role was something of a Project Manager for marketing  campaigns and product information content. Again, I began to focus more and more on the user experience side of this, and before long, I was responsible for a small team which focused only on the interactive components of our marketing websites and online efforts.

I stayed at Autodesk for five years as well, and eventually was offered a contract position with a design agency, Naviscent, to work as an Interaction Designer in a project they had with Oracle. In this position, I spent 2 years working with Oracle’s internal User Experience team, assisting with their pattern library development, designing their CRM Sales and Marketing application, and absorbing as much as I could about this newly-discovered specialty called “Interaction Design”.

Eventually that project wrapped up, but since 2006, and to this day, Naviscent has continued to call on me when they need a Senior Interaction Designer for new projects. I have also created similar long-term relationships with a handful of other agencies over the past several years and as a Freelancer, I have worked with dozens of teams developing websites, mobile applications, online marketing campaigns, web applications, and more.

In the meantime, I also established The Gerstle Group Inc., through which I provide various Internet and software-related services such as Website Development, Project Management, and of course, User Experience Consulting.

This is a career path which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and I hope to continue to work with more professionals in the future who are also dedicated to creating successful user experiences.